David Greenspan: The Wilder-Proust Questionnaire


With the 3rd International Thornton Wilder Conference just around the corner, scholars, friends and fans of TW answer 7 short questions, giving us a window into their Wilderian identities! David Greenspan appeared in his adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis which premiered at Two Rivers Theater; he has also appeared in his plays, Dead Mother, She Stoops to Comedy, Go Back to Where You Are, I’m Looking for Helen Twelvetrees, and his solo plays The Argument and The Myopia; performed solo renditions of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude, Barry Conners’s The Patsy, Gertrude Stein’s lecture Plays, a program of two Stein lectures and a playlet Composition…Masterpieces...Identity; and he has worked with many contemporary playwrights. His works and performances have received five Obie Awards and in 2010 he received an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement.

1. What is your favorite Wilder quote? Dolly Levi: There isn’t any more coffee; there isn’t any more gingerbread, and there isn’t any more play – but there is one more thing we have to do – Barnaby, come here. I think the youngest person here ought to tell us what the moral of the play is.

Barnaby Tucker: Oh, I think it’s about…. I think it’s about adventure. The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ” Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.” And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure. What we would like for you is that you have just the right amount of sitting quietly at home and just the right amount of –adventure! So that now we all want to thank you for coming tonight, and we all hope that in your lives you have just the right amount of –adventure!

2. What is your favorite Wilder work? 

I don’t have a favorite. But I do have a special affection for The Matchmaker – perhaps because I played the barber Joe Scanlon in high school. I’d like to act in the play again, perhaps playing Joe Scanlon in Act One, the waiter Rudolph in Act Three and Miss Flora Van Husen in Act Four

3. Describe Wilder in three adjectives. 

Timeless, comic, tragic.

4. With which Wilder character do you most identify / which character do you find is most like you?

I can’t answer the question conclusively. But I did feel a strong affinity for Uncle Pio when I played him in my adaptation of The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

5. Who is your favorite Wilder hero or antihero?

Emily in Our Town.

6. Who is your favorite fictional Wilder woman?

I do adore Dolly Levi.

7. What is Wilder's best love scene?

I’m torn between the final courtship of Horace Vandergelder and Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker and the Emily and George at the bedroom windows in Our Town.

Photo by T. Charles Erickson